Connecting with Nature

Archives

Posts Tagged ‘bird-watching’

Add birding to your life list

Tagged: , , , , ,

January 2011, Connecting With Nature, NCW Greenways
by Mark Oswood

Birds are perhaps the most watchable wildlife — present everywhere, identifying characteristics visible at a distance and an achievable challenge.

There are an estimated 60 million-plus birders in the United States, ranging from beginning backyard birdwatchers to experts who pursue hard-to-find birds in hard-to-get-to places. Some of these folks are solitary while others are more gregarious, looking for birds and sharing the joy in what they find.

Beginner to expert, solitary to social, most birders share a common bond: curiosity, a love of the outdoors and an interest in learning.

Birding is a lifelong sport in which all can participate.

What kind of birder are you? Do you travel? The trees at a dreary freeway rest area might hold a never-before-seen bird or provide an uncommonly close look at a common bird. The balcony of your hotel room might provide a perch to see an osprey gliding by, fish in talons. Maybe you are, like Thoreau, someone who travels far by staying close to home.

Do you know that the American robin has at least five distinct songs and calls? The possibilities of what you can see in your own backyard or neighborhood are enough to last a lifetime.

Your travels, at home or far away, will make thousands of memories, but what will you use to contain the memories? The brain is leaky; you need paper.
A “unit of memory” in your journal might include the birds that you saw or heard, the context of place, date, weather and maybe any notions that arise.

You might write: “At Hydro Park, cold evening near dusk, 13 December, 2010. I walked along the short grass near the river.

A great blue heron rose up from the river’s edge with the usual irritated-sounding call and looking ancient, like a pterodactyl.”
Sketches and quick paintings are natural adjuncts to the words in your journal.

For those of us unburdened by artistic talent, even diagrammatic sketches of markings and flight patterns can help with later bird identifications, when reference books and the Web are at hand.

There are excellent books on nature journaling, all full of hopeful evidence that art skills sufficient for nature journaling can be learned.

You might search for books by Clare Walker Leslie, Hannah Hinchman or Susan Leigh Tomlinson. Better yet, visit Heather Wallis Murphy, a local master of nature journaling, at her website, www.wildtales.com.

Your journals will, over the years, become repositories, not only of memories but also of valuable scientific data.

Your records of birds seen year-to-year can reveal changes in habitat, weather patterns and shifts in predators or diseases. Stacking the years on top of one another reveals the choreography of the seasons: arrivals of birds from wintering areas, first blossoms of flowers, eggs in nests, berries ripening, departures for the south.

Your journal entries become more powerful when joined with those from others who record their sightings.

We invite you to share your observations of birds and help us all learn more about their numbers, distribution and habits.

You can participate in a nationwide event, the Great Backyard Bird Count. You can also add your bird observations to the online nature journal for our region at www.connectingwithnature.org.

Mark Oswood is a retired biology professor but a beginning birder (old dogs can be lifelong learners). He is president of the NCW Audubon Society (www.ncwaudubon.org), a local chapter of the National Audubon Society dedicated to conserving and restoring natural ecosystems for the benefit of birds and people.

This piece is also published in the Wenatchee World at www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2011/jan/03/add-birding-to-your-life-list/

Low-velocity birding

Tagged: , ,

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest running citizen science program in the world, with over a century of records.
This year’s CBC is just finished but you can make plans for next year. Your timing, however, is perfect for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), which runs four consecutive days beginning Feb. 18.

The GBBC is a more do-it-yourself, low-velocity version of the CBC. You pick your own location to count birds (for at least 15 minutes). If you are counting at different locations, you can do more than one count in a day; you can do counts on any or all of the four days of the GBBC. There are simple rules for counting birds, and you need to have some easy-to-get information for each of your counts.

If your birding experience is limited, chances are that you’ll see birds that you can’t identify. That’s OK! One of the questions you’ll answer for each of your counts is whether you identified all the birds you saw.

The GBBC is especially suited for stay-at-home bird watchers. Your seen-from-your-window count of birds at your backyard feeders is just as needed as a count done by a bungee-corded birder, dangling from a blimp over a remote mountaintop.

The GBBC website, www.birdsource.org/gbbc, has instructions, downloadable checklists of birds for your location and help for bird identifications. After you’ve done your counts, you enter your data at the GBBC website.

If you are completely nondigital but would like to do the GBBC, contact me at 662-9087 for a paper version.
— Mark Oswood, Connecting with Nature

This piece is also published in the Wenatchee World at www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2011/jan/03/low-velocity-birding-for-everyone/

IRIS